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Chesy’s defense stuffs Northridge

All season long the Chesapeake Panthers offense has grabbed headlines with one blowout after another.

Saturday, November 06, 1999

All season long the Chesapeake Panthers offense has grabbed headlines with one blowout after another. But while the offense was scoring 442 points, the defense was quietly limiting opponents to 76 points.

The defense was very vocal Friday night as the Panthers shut down the Johnstown Northridge Vikings potent offense en route to a 13-3 win in the quarterfinals of the Region 19 Division V playoffs.

"We played great defense. That’s a good football team," Panthers coach Phil Davis said after his team notched the first playoff win in school history. Chesapeake two previous appearances ended in losses.

"We felt we needed to stop the run. We felt what they did best was run the football. We tried to keep (quarterback Alec Messerall) inside and we did a pretty good job not letting him get outside. I didn’t feel like (Messerall) could beat us throwing."

Messerall, the Vikings quarterback, was a two-way threat running and passing the football. But the Chesapeake defense held him to 37 yards rushing and 48 passing. As a team, Northridge had just 114 total yards.

"We had to play hard and keep their linemen off our linebackers," Panthers defensive tackle Greg Lambert said. "I guess looking at the score, we did a pretty good job. The defense has been pretty strong all year. We stepped it up and we stopped them inside the red zone."

Chesapeake (11-0) will now play Amanda-Clearcreek (10-1) in the regional semifinals at 7:30 p.m. Friday, probably at Portsmouth. Clearcreek beat Malvern 22-7.

Northridge (10-1) was able to slow down the Chesapeake offense, but mistakes played a key factor in the outcome. The Vikings were guilty of four turnovers including two fumbled punts.

"Our defense did a nice job. I thought we could keep it close," Northridge coach Roger Kirkhart said. "Mistakes in the kicking game hurt us, and we let them get one just before the half."

The Vikings took a 3-0 lead on their second possession of the game by driving from their own 38 to the Panther 17. The drive bogged down and Gabe Sharrock booted a 33-yard field goal with 28 seconds on the clock.

After stopping the Panthers and forcing a punt, Northridge fumbled the ball and Robby Isaacs recovered at the 14 for Chesapeake.

A 2-yard gain and two incomplete passes led to a 31-yard field goal attempt by Isaacs, but the kick was low and short.

But more trouble with the kicking game awaited for Northridge. A bad snap over punter Bobby Callan’s head gave Chesapeake the ball at the Vikings 29. On third and 7, quarterback Andy Clark hit Josh Waugh running a crossing route underneath and the receiver turned an ran the rest of the distance for the touchdown. Isaacs kicked the point after and Chesapeake led 7-0 with 3:43 left in the half.

Northridge went three-and-out and the Panthers got the ball at their own 27. Chesapeake then went 73 yards in 10 plays with Clark completing 4 of 7 in the drive for 62 yards including a 32-yarder to Waugh with just 13 seconds to play and it was 13-3.

Chesapeake’s only turnover – a fumble – helped put Northridge in scoring position to start the second half.

Getting the ball at the Panthers 31, Northridge picked up two first downs and had a first-and-goal just inside the 10. But on third-and-12, Messerall’s pass in the end zone was tipped by Clark and intercepted by linebacker Jeremy Estep who was tackle at the 5.

"We had to step it up and play hard," Estep said. "We knew they would be a good offensive team. Our defense came through. We expected them to run more. (Mike Greenhouse) is a heck of a back and their quarterback can run and throw. We had to play both sides of the ball. The offensive line played a great game. It was a great team effort with everyone working together."

Chesapeake was able to muster only 6 yards and Jason Adkins was forced to punt again. But Chris Weinberger had the ball taken away from him by Isaacs just after catching the ball and making an momentary bobble.

"I didn’t think (Weinberger) had a chance to catch it, but there was no flag so in the referee’s judgment there was no penalty," Kirkhart said. "If we get at least a field goal we’re in position to tie the game. Then we force them to punt and we turn the ball over."

The Vikings were able to stop the Panthers again and got the ball back at midfield. A couple of passes got the ball to the 35 and a 2-yard run by Callan set up a fourth down and 8. But Messerall’s pass was off the mark and the Panthers took over.

Chesapeake held onto the ball for 10 plays and finally punt the ball back with 3:07 left. Messerall threw four straight incomplete passes and the Panthers ran off the final 2:38.